Film Rankings By Year 1901-1949

Here’s how it works: A film’s year is simply the year IMDB says it is. Not because IMDB is especially accurate, but just because it happens to be the easiest and most comprehensive resource there is for tracking film dates throughout the world and over the whole history of cinema. Occasionally IMDB will change a year as new information comes to light, when I notice such changes, I’ll change the list here accordingly.

The order isn’t definitive: ranking works of art is not meant to be a hierarchical activity, but rather an organizational one. It’s interesting trivially and comparatively to see what movies came out at the same time, to see the progression of film history. And lists are just plain fun to argue over. They are meant to be conversation starters, not finishers. I don’t have any particular criteria for what ranks above what, it’s just my own subjective opinion, informed by a reasonable knowledge of film and film history, one that is expanding and deepening all the time.

The rankings change over time: when I see a new movie, I add it to the list here. Sometimes I’ll see a movie again and my opinion of it will change, or my feelings about a film will evolve and so I’ll move it up or down the list.  These changes are noted as they occur in “This Week in Rankings” posts, though often a single change to a year will lead to a larger shuffling.  These lists are, and always will be, a work in progress.

This is Part One, 1901-1949.

1901:

1. The Pan-American Exposition By Night
2. Excelsior! The Prince of the Magicians
3. What Happened on Twenty-Third Street
4. The Devil and the Statue

1902:

1. A Trip to the Moon
2. Gulliver’s Travels

1903

1. The Great Train Robbery
2. The Kingdom of Fairies
3. The Infernal Cakewalk
4. Jupiter’s Thunderballs
5. The Life of an American Fireman
6. What Happened in the Tunnel

1904:

1. Metamorphosis of a Butterfly
2. The Cook in Trouble

1905:

1. The Kleptomaniac
2. The Little Train Robbery
3. The Black Imp
4. A Crazy Composer

1906:

1. The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend
2. A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire
3. Tit for Tat
4. Films of the San Francisco Earthquake
5. Three American Beauties

1907:

1. Kiri-Kis
2. The Rivals
3. The “Teddy” Bears
4. The Eclipse
5. The Haunted Hotel
6. Lightning Sketches

1908:

1. Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest

1909:

1. A Corner in Wheat
2. Those Awful Hats
3. Le papillon fantastique

1910:

1. Ramona
2. The Acrobatic Fly
3. In the Border States

1912:

1. The Musketeers of Pig Alley
2. The Girl and Her Trust
3. For His Son
4. The Sunbeam
5. Conquest of the Pole

1913:

1. Fantômas
2. Ingeborg Holm
3. The Mothering Heart
4. The Artist’s Dreams

1914:

1. Kid Auto Races at Venice
2. Gertie the Dinosaur
3. Cabiria
4. Tillie’s Punctured Romance

1915:

1. Les Vampires
2. Regeneration
3. The Cheat
4. The Birth of a Nation
5. A Fool There Was
6. Down on the Phoney Farm
7. The Lone Game

1916:

1. Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Through the Ages
2. The Rink
3. The Pawnshop
4. The Floorwalker
5. One AM
6. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

1917:

1. The Immigrant
2. The Poor Little Rich Girl
3. Straight Shooting
4. The Cure
5. Coney Island
6. Bobby Bumps Starts for School

1918:

1. A Dog’s Life

1919:

1. True Heart Susie
2. The Doll
3. Broken Blossoms
4. Blind Husbands
5. Don’t Change Your Husband
6. When The Clouds Roll By
7. Sunnyside
8. A Day’s Pleasure
9. Firemen Save My Child

1920:

1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
2. One Week
3. The Golem: How He Came Into the World
4. Way Down East
5. Just Pals
6. The Scarecrow
7. Why Change Your Wife?
8. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
9. The Mark of Zorro
10. Convict 13
11. Neighbors
12. The Bomb Idea

1921:

1. The Play House
2. Orphans of the Storm
3. Leaves from Satan’s Book
4. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
5. The Goat
6. The Kid
7. The Phantom Carriage
8. The ‘High Sign’
9. The Idle Class
10. Camille
11. The Boat
12. The Haunted House
13. The Sheik
14. The Haunted Castle
15. Hard Luck
16. Manhatta

1922:

1. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
2. Nanook of the North
3. Cops
4. Häxan
5. The Paleface
6. Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood
7. Day Dreams
8. Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler
9. The Blacksmith
10. Phantom
11. The Frozen North
12. The Electric House
13. My Wife’s Relations

1923:

1. Our Hospitality
2. Safety Last
3. The Three Ages
4. The Pilgrim
5. The Balloonatic
6. The Love Nest
7. Springtime

1924:

1. Sherlock, Jr.
2. Die Nibelungen
3. The Last Laugh
4. Greed
5. He Who Gets Slapped
6. The Iron Horse
7. The Thief of Bagdad
8. The Navigator
9. A Trip to Mars
10. The Sea Hawk
11. Symphonie diagonale

1925:

1. The Gold Rush
2. Battleship Potemkin
3. The Big Parade
4. Tartuffe
5. Seven Chances
6. Strike
7. The Freshman
8. The Phantom of the Opera

1926:

1. The General
2. Faust
3. What Price Glory?
4. 3 Bad Men
5. Bardelys the Magnificent
6. The Scarlet Letter
7. The Adventures of Prince Achmed
8. 45 Minutes from Hollywood
9. Scents & Nonsense
10. Thundering Fleas
11. Along Came Auntie

1927:

1. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
2. Underworld
3. Seventh Heaven
4. Metropolis
5. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
6. Napoleon
7. Wings
8. The King of Kings
9. Jewish Prudence
10. It
11. Love ‘Em and Weep
12. Fluttering Hearts
13. With Love and Hisses
14. Duck Soup
15. Cave of the Spider Women
16. College
17. Why Girls Love Sailors
18. London After Midnight (Reconstruction)
19. Sailors, Beware!
20. Sugar Daddies
21. Slipping Wives

1928:

1. The Docks of New York
2. Steamboat Bill, Jr.
3. The Passion of Joan of Arc
4. Lonesome
5. The Wind
6. Street Angel
7. Two Tars
8. The Crowd
9. The Last Command
10. The Circus
11. L’Argent
12. The Cameraman
13. Spione
14. October
15. Show People
16. In Old Arizona
17. Speedy
18. Champagne

1929:

1. The Man with a Movie Camera
2. Applause
3. Diary of a Lost Girl
4. Un chien andalou
5. Blackmail
6. Lucky Star
7. Hallelujah!
8. Pandora’s Box
9. Days of Youth
10. Queen Kelly
11. The Manxman
12. The Love Parade
13. The Broadway Melody
14. Spite Marriage
15. The Cocoanuts
16. Only Me

1930:

1. Morocco
2. The Dawn Patrol
3. People on Sunday
4. City Girl
5. Under the Roofs of Paris
6. The Blue Angel
7. Earth
8. All Quiet on the Western Front
9. The Big Trail
10. Animal Crackers
11. À propos de Nice
12. Monte Carlo
13. I Flunked, But. . .
14. Free and Easy
15. Not So Dumb
16. Murder!
17. Ladies of Leisure
18. Doughboys
19. Abraham Lincoln

1931:

1. City Lights
2. Tabu: A Story of the South Seas
3. Frankenstein
4. M
5. Dishonored
6. Street Scene
7. Tokyo Chorus
8. The Public Enemy
9. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
10. Safe in Hell
11. The Front Page
12. À nous la liberté
13. The Criminal Code
14. Waterloo Bridge
15. City Streets
16. Monkey Business
17. Little Caesar
18. Le Million
19. Kameradschaft
20. The Lady and the Beard
21. Night Nurse
22. Flunky, Work Hard
23. Cimarron
24. The Threepenny Opera
25. The Smiling Lieutenant
26. Dracula
27. Platinum Blonde
28. Parlor, Bedroom and Bath
29. Arrowsmith
30. Sidewalks of New York

1932:
1932 Awards

1. Trouble in Paradise
2. Vampyr
3. Shanghai Express
4. Scarface
5. One Way Passage
6. The Music Box
7. Me and My Gal
8. The Sign of the Cross
9. Where Now are the Dreams of Youth?
10. The Island of Lost Souls
11. Freaks
12. I was Born but . . .
13. The Most Dangerous Game
14. ¡Que viva México!
15. Blonde Venus
16. Red Dust
17. A Farewell to Arms
18. Boudu Saved from Drowning
19. No Blood Relation
20. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
21. Murders in the Rue Morgue
22. What Price Hollywood?
23. Love Me Tonight
24. Three on a Match
25. American Madness
26. Tarzan, the Ape Man
27. Red-Headed Woman
28. Horse Feathers
29. The Mask of Fu Manchu
30. Bird of Paradise
31. The Mummy
32. The Strange Love of Molly Louvain
33. The Old Dark House
34. Number Seventeen
35. Frisco Jenny

36. Jewel Robbery

37. One Hour with You
38. Rain

39. The Purchase Price
40. The Crowd Roars
41. Payment Deferred
42. Thirteen Women

44. Bill of Divorcement
45. White Zombie
46. Grand Hotel
47. Forbidden
48. The Passionate Plumber

1933:
1933 Awards

1. Duck Soup
2. Japanese Girls at the Harbor
3. Hallelujah, I’m a Bum
4. Design for Living
5. Golddiggers of 1933
6. King Kong
7. Wild Boys of the Road
8. Man’s Castle
9. Baby Face
10. Sons of the Desert
11. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
12. Pilgrimage
13. 42nd Street
14. Passing Fancy
15. Zéro de conduite
16. Footlight Parade
17. Apart From You
18. Ecstasy
19. The Invisible Man
20. Lady for a Day
21. State Fair
22. Dragnet Girl
23. The Bitter Tea of General Yen
24. Every-Night Dreams
25. Mystery of the Wax Museum
26. Midnight Mary
27. The Private Life of Henry VIII
28. Queen Christina
29. Gabriel Over the White House
30. Bombshell
31. Heroes for Sale
32. Little Women
33. The Power and the Glory
34. I’m No Angel
35. Girl Missing
36. Flying Down to Rio
37. Cavalcade
38. Penthouse
39. Topaze
40. What! No Beer?
41. She Done Him Wrong

42. Havana Widows
43. Going Hollywood

44. Stingaree
45. The Vampire Bat

1934:

1. L’Atalante
2. Twentieth Century
3. Man of Aran
4. No Greater Glory
5. The Scarlet Empress
6. Little Man, What Now?

7. The Thin Man

8. Judge Priest
9. The Black Cat
10. Our Daily Bread
11. The Gay Divorcee
12. It’s a Gift
13. It Happened One Night

14. A Story of Floating Weeds

15. The Man Who Knew Too Much
16. Street Without End
17. The Merry Widow
18. The Lost Patrol
19. Lilliom
20. Heat Lightning
21. Cleopatra
22. Les misérables
23. A Lost Lady
24. Manhattan Melodrama
25. Death Takes a Holiday
26. House of Mystery
27. The Merry Wives of Reno
28. Dames

1935:

1. Ruggles of Red Gap
2. The Devil is a Woman
3. Wife! Be Like a Rose!
4. Top Hat
5. The 39 Steps
6. Carnival in Flanders
7. Steamboat ‘Round the Bend
8. Balloon Land
9. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
10. Sylvia Scarlett
11. The Good Fairy
12. The Informer
13. Barbary Coast
14. The Broadway Melody of 1936
15. Captain Blood
16. Bride of Frankenstein
17. Mutiny on the Bounty
18. Crime & Punishment
19. China Seas
20. A Night at the Opera
21. Annie Oakley
22. Mark of the Vampire
23. The Hands of Orlac (Mad Love)
24. Roberta
25. If You Could Only Cook
26. Anna Karenina
27. She
28. Gold Diggers of 1935
29. Shipmates Forever

1936:

1. Swing Time
2. Modern Times
3. Dodsworth
4. Story of a Cheat
5. Sisters of the Gion
6. Fury
7. A Day in the Country
8. The Only Son
9. Come and Get It
10. Mr. Thank You
11. Theodora Goes Wild
12. My Man Godfrey
13. The Road to Glory
14. Show Boat
15. Things to Come
16. Follow the Fleet
17. Last of the Mohicans
18. The Great Ziegfeld
19. Camille
20. The Garden of Allah
21. Sabotage
22. Libeled Lady
23. The Prisoner of Shark Island
24. Born to Dance
25. The Charge of the Light Brigade
26. After the Thin Man
27. The Plough and the Stars
28. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
29. Mary of Scotland
30. The Petrified Forest
31. The King Steps Out
32. Romeo and Juliet

1937:

1. Make Way for Tomorrow
2. The Awful Truth
3. The Grand Illusion
4. Shall We Dance
5. Wee Willie Winkie
6. Humanity and Paper Balloons
7. History is Made at Night
8. Stella Dallas
9. Stage Door
10. Easy Living
11. You Only Live Once
12. Pepe le Moko
13. The Spanish Earth
14. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
15. Dark Journey

16. Nothing Sacred
17. Swing High, Swing Low
18. A Damsel in Distress
19. A Star is Born

20. The Hurricane

21. A Day at the Races
22. Storm in a Teacup
23. The Broadway Melody of 1938

24. Hollywood Hotel
25. The Great Garrick
26. Dead End
27. Lost Horizon
28. Topper

29. Smart Blonde
30. The Life of Emile Zola
31. Rosalie

32. A Family Affair
33. King Solomon’s Mines

1938:

1. Bringing Up Baby
2. The Adventures of Robin Hood
3. The Lady Vanishes
4. Alexander Nevsky
5. Holiday
6. Three Comrades
7. Jezebel
8. The Shopworn Angel
9. St. Martin’s Lane
10. The Masseurs and a Woman
11. Merrily We Live
12. The Great Waltz
13. Pygmalion
14. Angels with Dirty Faces
15. Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife
16. The Shining Hour
17. You Can’t Take it with You
18. Carefree
19. Vivacious Lady
20. Blond Cheat
21. Man-Proof
22. Maid’s Night Out

1939:

1. The Rules of the Game
2. Only Angels Have Wings
3. Stagecoach
4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
5. Young Mr. Lincoln
6. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums
7. Gone with the Wind
8. The Wizard of Oz
9. Gunga Din
10. Ninotchka
11. The Roaring Twenties
12. Midnight
13. Babes in Arms
14. Le jour se lève
15. Destry Rides Again
16. Love Affair
17. Drums Along the Mohawk
18. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
19. Beau Geste
20. Goodbye Mr. Chips
21. It’s a Wonderful World
22. The Old Maid
23. The Four Feathers
24. The Women
25. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
26. Intermezzo: A Love Story
27. Wuthering Heights
28. Dark Victory
29. Empress Wu Zetien
30. The Hound of the Baskervilles
31. Jamaica Inn
32. Second Fiddle
33. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
34. Man in the Iron Mask

1940:

1. The Shop Around the Corner
2. The Philadelphia Story
3. Fantasia
4. Christmas in July
5. His Girl Friday
6. Waterloo Bridge
7. Rebecca
8. The Grapes of Wrath
9. The Letter
10. They Drive By Night
11. The Long Voyage Home
12. The Mortal Storm
13. Remember the Night
14. Pinocchio
15. The Bank Dick
16. Northwest Passage
17. The Broadway Melody of 1940
18. The Thief of Baghdad
19. The Mark of Zorro
20. The Great McGinty
21. Comrade X
22. The Sea Hawk
23. Foreign Correspondent
24. The Great Dictator
25. Night Train to Munich
26. Dark Command
27. My Little Chickadee
28. My Favorite Wife
29. Virginia City
30. One Million BC
31. Santa Fe Trail

1941:

1. Citizen Kane
2. The Lady Eve
3. How Green Was My Valley
4. Hellzapoppin’
5. The Strawberry Blonde
6. The Maltese Falcon
7. The Shanghai Gesture
8. Suspicion
9. Ornamental Hairpin
10. High Sierra
11. Sullivan’s Travels
12. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
13. Man Hunt
14. 49th Parallel
15. Ball of Fire

16. The Devil and Daniel Webster

17. The Loyal 47 Ronin
18. They Died with Their Boots On
19. Dumbo
20. That Hamilton Woman

21. HM Pulham, Esq

22. Sergeant York
23. The Little Foxes
24. The Devil and Miss Jones
25. Sundown
26. That Uncertain Feeling
27. The Gay Falcon
28. Meet John Doe
29. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
30. Rage in Heaven
31. Two-Faced Woman
32. Tom, Dick and Harry
33. Smilin’ Through
34. Belle Starr: The Bandit Queen

1942:

1. Casablanca
2. Cat People
3. The Magnificent Ambersons
4. Bambi
5. The Palm Beach Story
6. Once Upon a Honeymoon
7. Now, Voyager
8. To Be or Not To Be
9. There Was a Father
10. This Gun for Hire
11. I Married a Witch
12. Wake Island
13. The Glass Key
14. China Girl
15. Mrs. Miniver
16. The Black Swan
17. Yankee Doodle Dandy
18. Talk of the Town
19. You Were Never Lovelier
20. For Me and My Gal
21. Son of Fury
22. Woman of the Year
23. Saboteur
24. The Major and the Minor
25. Across the Pacific
26. In this Our Life
27. Pride of the Yankees
28. Keeper of the Flame
29. The Lady is Willing

1943:

1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
2. Day of Wrath
3. The Gang’s All Here
4. Meshes of the Afternoon
5. The Leopard Man

6. Shadow of a Doubt
7. I Walked with a Zombie

8. Heaven Can Wait
9. The 7th Victim
10. Air Force
11. Cabin in the Sky
12. Hangmen Also Die!
13. Sanshiro Sugata
14. The More the Merrier
15. The Constant Nymph
16. The Ox-Bow Incident
17. This Land is Mine
18. Northern Pursuit
19. Dream of the Red Chamber
20. I Dood It
21. Mission to Moscow
22. Jane Eyre
23. Thousands Cheer
24. Watch on the Rhine
25. Phantom of the Opera
26. Passport to Suez

1944:

1. Meet Me in St. Louis
2. A Canterbury Tale
3. To Have and Have Not
4. Ivan the Terrible Part 1
5. Double Indemnity
6. Laura
7. Curse of the Cat People
8. Hail the Conquering Hero
9. Going My Way
10. The Woman in the Window
11. Jammin’ the Blues
12. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
13. Passage to Marseille
14. Ministry of Fear
15. Lifeboat
16. Phantom Lady
17. Henry V
18. The Lodger
19. Cover Girl
20. The Three Caballeros
21. Mademoiselle Fifi
22. Arsenic & Old Lace

23. Gaslight
24. Christmas Holiday
25. Cobra Woman

26. The Canterville Ghost
27. Murder, My Sweet
28. The Mask of Dimitrios
29. Bluebeard
30. One Mysterious Night

1945:

1. Children of Paradise
2. They Were Expendable
3. Rome, Open City
4. Scarlet Street
5. The Bells of St. Mary’s
6. The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail
7. I Know Where I’m Going!
8. Brief Encounter
9. The Clock
10. Detour
11. Leave Her to Heaven
12. Objective: Burma!
13. Mildred Pierce
14. A Walk in the Sun
15. The Southerner
16. The Story of GI Joe
17. Fallen Angel
18. Our Vines Have Tender Grapes
19. The Spanish Main
20. The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
21. My Name is Julia Ross
22. The House on 92nd Street
23. The Picture of Dorian Gray
24. Yolanda and the Thief
25. The Body Snatcher
26. A Song to Remember
27. The Lost Weekend
28. Anchors Aweigh
29. The Spiral Staircase
30. Ziegfeld Follies
31. Spellbound
32. Back to Bataan
33. Caesar and Cleopatra

1946:

1. The Big Sleep
2. It’s a Wonderful Life
3. A Matter of Life and Death
4. Notorious
5. No Regrets for Our Youth
6. Paisan
7. The Best Years of Our Lives
8. My Darling Clementine
9. Gilda
10. The Killers
11. Beauty and the Beast
12. Diary of a Chambermaid
13. The Postman Always Rings Twice
14. Deception
15. The Stranger
16. The Blue Dahlia
17. Dragonwyck
18. Duel in the Sun
19. Green for Danger
20. Undercurrent
21. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
22. A Scandal in Paris
23. Etoile sans lumière
24. Bedlam
25. The Harvey Girls
26. Tomorrow is Forever
27. Song of the South
28. A Night in Casablanca

1947:

1. Black Narcissus
2. Out of the Past
3. The Lady from Shanghai
4. Monsieur Verdoux
5. The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
6. Odd Man Out
7. T-Men
8. The Secret Beyond the Door
9. The Man I Love
10. The Spring River Flows East
11. The Woman on the Beach
12. Crossfire
13. Kiss of Death
14. Ramrod
15. Lured
16. Cheyenne
17. The Unsuspected
18. The Late George Apley
19. Born To Kill
20. Dark Passage
21. Sinbad the Sailor
22. Railroaded!
23. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
24. The Egg and I
25. Gentlemen’s Agreement

1948:

1. The Red Shoes
2. Fort Apache
3. The Pirate
4. Red River
5. Unfaithfully Yours
6. Letter from an Unknown Woman
7. Louisiana Story
8. Spring in a Small Town

9. They Live by Night
10. Force of Evil
11. The Naked City
12. Macbeth
13. Moonrise

14. Portrait of Jennie
15. Easter Parade
16. Rope
17. He Walked by Night
18. The Big Clock
19. Drunken Angel
20. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
21. Hamlet
22. Bicycle Thieves
23. 3 Godfathers
24. Words and Music
25. Key Largo
26. Blood on the Moon
27. Berlin Express
28. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
29. A Foreign Affair
30. The Three Musketeers

1949:

1. Late Spring
2. The Third Man
3. Under Capricorn
4. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
5. The Black Book

6. The Set-Up
7. Jour de fête

8. Thieves’ Highway
9. On the Town
10. Stray Dog
11. Kind Hearts and Coronets
12. The Small Back Room
13. I Was a Male War Bride
14. Whirlpool
15. A Letter to Three Wives
16. Caught
17. The Fountainhead
18. Battleground
19. Colorado Territory
20. Shockproof
21. Madame Bovary
22. White Heat
23. Adam’s Rib
24. The True Story of Wong Fei-hung: Whiplash Snuffs the Candle Flame
25. Holiday Affair
26. Sands of Iwo Jima
27. I Shot Jesse James
28. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
29. Follow Me Quietly
30. Samson and Delilah
31. Take Me Out to the Ballgame
32. All the King’s Men
33. In the Good Old Summertime

34. The Big Steal
35. A Woman’s Secret

36. The Barkleys of Broadway
37. Knock on Any Door
38. Black Magic

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